My Favorite Restaurant in France (This Week)

moules

This place has it all: location, fresh seafood, and best of all, beaucoup de frites. After visiting the fantastic market in La Tremblade, we drove out to the where the boats bring in the oysters, and settled in to our table at La Bonne Renommée.

la Tremblade

Since my friends were regulars, they knew exactly what they wanted and barely glanced at the menus. But I was intrigued by the fireplace that we walked past on the way in, which was filled with dried seaweed and set ablaze to cook each order of fire-roasted Eclade de moules.

firing up for mussels

Finger-sized mussels are arranged on a plank, then set atop the fire made of dried seaweed to cook them just for a few moments after the blaze dies down, which also give them a woody, smoked flavor. And when I saw a plank on almost every table around us, and the diners lips (and fingers) flecked with bits of singed seaweed, what I was going to order was a no-brainer.

fire

Ever-curious Romain asked a neighboring table how they tasted, since that’s not the kind of thing one sees in Paris too often, and they invited him over to share a few. He brought one back for me and I knew I’d made the right decision.

But it would be impossible to come to La Tremblade and not start any meal with a big plate of oysters, since the oysters are harvested practically across the street from the restaurant. Eight huge numéro trois oysters were set before each of us, and although I usually have a pretty big appetite (especially when it comes to oysters), I almost couldn’t finish them.

oysters

Quite salty, a squirt of lemon balanced them nicely. I’m a fan of shallot-and-vinegar sauce, but all my French friends prefer them as close to nature as possible. And seeing as no one else had sauce mignonette on their tables, I didn’t think I’d better ask. (I didn’t want to feel like l’américain asking for ketchup, and getting a reprimand, even though the servers were incredibly nice.)

mussels to table

Shortly after wiping the last of the oyster juices off our chins, out came the mussels…and bottle numéro deux of locally-produced Sauvignon Blanc.

fire roasted mussels

On a sidenote, for anyone who doesn’t think the French match their American counterparts in girth, I should note that it was evident that the patrons who were here loved to eat. And when the food is this good, it’s equally evident that if I lived nearby, I’d frequent the restaurant as much as they obviously did.

les frites

Speaking of girth, please note that this heap of fries is for two people. I tried to shovel in as many as I could, since they were crisp and well-salted, although no one seemed to share my affection for them. And since I hate to see good food go to waste, well, there you have it.

My dining companions were distracted by the giant bowl of moules à la marinière, mussels steamed in white wine, parsley, and shallots, which are eaten by using your first empty mussel shell like a pincher and extracting mussels from the rest of them in the bowl. Even though I was overwhelmed by the amount of mussels on the charred board in front of me, I couldn’t resist snatching a few from the mound in the bowl in the center of the table.

a la bonne renommée

When they took the last of the plates away from the table, and I’d come back from my second trip to the men’s room to wash up, they asked if I wanted to try the “dessert of the house.” I hated to be impolite, but I didn’t even ask what it was. But if you go, please let me know what I missed.

La Bonne Renommée
Boulevard Roger Letélié
La Tremblade
Tél: 05 46 36 12 02
(Map)

la Tremblade

58 comments

  • Wherever La Tremblade was, I’m sure it was well worth the trip and I hope that you plan a repeat visit there. It sounds like France’s version of some great American shoreline places that we go to again and again–a real hit!!

  • I love mussels and love La Tremblade, it is romantic yet quite bleak especially in poor weather, though it looks like you had lovely weather.
    Baking is such a delicious way to cook mussels but it doesn’t have quite the same effect in my oven (and somehow my cakes don’t taste quite the same after!).
    Thank you for a happy reminder.

  • Thank you for the lovely “vacation in my mind”….I had a wonderful time! Oh, and I didn’t have dessert either…..

  • Golden orange fries ♥ !

  • What a great way to eat mussels – a new one on me. I’m hoping to find similar type places on my trip to Nova Scotia next week. Those fries look perfectly cooked and not at all greasy.

  • Mmmussels! Just had friends visiting from Lille and they brought us bottles of beer and Picon, along with a two tier moules/frites pot. I kinda wish they had just offered to bring us to la Tremblade instead ! ;) Never seen mussels cooked that way before, fantastic. Hope to experience that one day for sure… And one thing’s for sure, you can count on me to order dessert(s) ! I’ll never let you down.

  • I adore moules marinières, but I have never had roasted mussels before. I can’t wait to go back to Europe for a gastronimic visit!

  • Glad to hear that those oysters haven’t been sick this summer! I understand that the Bretonne economie has taken a hit this summer due to contaminated oysters.

  • Forgot to add: you don’t eat Irish oysters in months containing the letter ‘r’ – do you know of a similar rule for France? Granted, it is almost September…

  • The food looks amazing! Love the visual of people with flecks of seaweed on their faces. This place could be mistaken for a small New England town, no?

  • Accidental Parisian: I think the oyster problem is something that is killing them, rather than us. Thankfully, I’m still alive!

    Nicole: It could be New England, except I didn’t see any lobster sandwiches or corn on the cob…unfortunately.

    krysalia: Oddly, I was on the only one who liked les frites

  • I’m not much for seafood, so wouldn’t I be the talk of the kitchen ordering a plate of those perfect looking fries all by themselves! They are gorgeous..I’m thinking malt vinegar on the side. Yeah, I’m SO American!

  • @accidental parisian
    The french rule about oyster eating is, I think, that you only eat them in months that have a ‘r’ in it. There are eight months that have the letter ‘r’ in it, so in French that would give you “huit r”. Hence the french word for oyster, “huitre” (or so they say)

  • I recently cooked a more-or-less successful moules à la marnière, but I’d love some interesting recipe ideas for other moules plates. Do you have anything up your sleeve?

  • I would have been fighting you for the fries.

  • I’m not a fan of mussels or oysters, it’s a texture thing for me…but the way they are cooked sounds like it must have been quite a delicious experience!

    Those fries are pure heaven!

    David, I recently finished your book, “The Sweet Life In Paris”, and I thoroughly enjoyed it…you are a fantastic writer and I felt like I was on an adventure with you!

  • On holiday right now on a windswept Atlantic beach with tons of seaweed on the beach! Oysters smoked on planks with a seaweed fire! Fantastic idea. Okay so I’m off to see if I can inspire the others in the group to build me a mighty seaweed bonfire!

  • Where is La Tremblade located…Normandy? Brittany? How do you reach it from Paris?

  • Yum… reminds me of the summer I stayed in a beach cottage on Vancouver Island and walked out the door and dug for clams and picked up oysters. Lemon juice is all you need for fresh oysters….

  • Chocolate and Toast: You would have lost!

    Ooh la la Patti: It’s in the Poitou-Charente. I included a link to a map at the end of the post.

    Jennifer: Glad you liked it~ merci!

  • That sounds like a perfect day. Reminds me of driving up the coast from SF to Bodega Bay. You have to check into a B&B after a lunch like that, though ;-)

  • Isn’t that a romantic place. and the perfect lunch or big lunch for a spot like that. we have similiar places like that in summer, but they are filled to the brim with tourists. not so fun

  • I would have rolled up my sleeves and helped you with those delicious looking fries (whether you required assistance or not!).

    We have some lovely mussels here in British Columbia…. but hello! Fire baked in seaweed? Oh my!! [delicately fans face]

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful world with the rest of us. I love visiting!

  • …I’m not an oyster person…mussels, yes. And do these look beautiful…one day i’ll get round to making my cedar-planked salmon….till then, I’ll include your beautiful pictures in my dreams

  • Everything looks gorgeous and delicious. I’m curious–les moules don’t look particularly open. How did you get them out of the shell?

    Also, do you have any ideas for confit duck gizzards. I received some as a gift and am toying with some ideas for them but would love your input.

    Thanks!

    P.S. I just found your blog and am in love with it. I’m waiting for a rainy afternoon to spend in your archives!

  • What a beautiful post!

  • I have discovered your blog a few weeks ago but it is the first time I’m posting. I’m French, living in a very small town in South Burgundy, but I have spent all my childhood summers (and a few others since then) in the La Tremblade/Fouras/la Rochelle area. It is really a beautiful place!

    I couldn’t help posting to ask you if you have tried the local aperitif called “Pineau des Charentes”? A little glass of Pineau is THE weekend dinners’ aperitif in my family. Each year, there is always at least one member of the family going ‘on a culinary pilgrimage’ in the La Tremblade area and coming back with enough bottles to assure us sunny Sunday aperitifs even in the middle of winter. I have brought some several times to my friends in California too and they love it!

    One can find some Pineau in supermarkets everywhere in France but buying it from local producers is so much better. There are as many different Pineaux as there are producers but the family favorites are the Arrivé (Château Bellevue) ones (they have little shops in almost every villages of the La Tremblade area) and the ‘ilrhéa’, the Pineau produced on the “île de Ré”.

    Wishing you much fun there!

  • Elanor: Yes, I’ve had Pineau des Charentes, and I love it!

    On this trip, I also tried a red Pineau, which I didn’t know existed, but I don’t like it as much as the white one. I’m planning a trip to Cognac in a few weeks and hope to try some a few more, and definitely bring some home with me.

    Karen: They were easy to pry open with my fingers, or another shell. As for those gizzards, French people slice them very thinly and toss them in salads. Frisée is wonderful, with a vinegary dressing, or perhaps one with walnut or hazelnut oil, and some nuts, too.

  • Ooh, I can almost smell those oysters (and the fries). Looks like a fantastic place.

  • Oh,David, you lucky duck to be in La Tremblade! I go to a campsite in La Palmyre every June and it is heaven. Make sure you buy some Pineau- I think the red is better; fromage tourteau ( local cheesecake); and some local galettes made with angelica. The local country pate made with cabbage is gorgeous-don’t be put off by the lovely green colour!

  • PS…..the trick to the red Pineau is to drink it very COLD.

  • Wonderful food and post…the pictures of that world outside Paris (especially that there are full figured Frenchmen/women). Fruit de Mer, in whatever form, one of the great pleasures. There used to be a restaurant, Le Commerce, in Les Halles (next to Pied), that had a chalk board with all the fresh arrivals…none of the shell fish that didn’t have an ocean aroma on it (no oil slick…lol). The hot mussels in broth great in winter, white burgundy, small loaf of that brown bread, crock of fresh butter & the sauce vinaigrette, I agree with you there, tete a tete, very romantic too. Satisfaction on so many levels. Thanks.

  • I think that might be MY favorite restaurant in France. I’m drooling over the oysters (though I’m with you on the mignonette)

  • David,

    What a wonderful meal….I love oysters and mussels and fries…
    Curious about those fries, though…they look too perfect to be fresh-cut fries…but I am stunned that the French would serve frozen potatoes. Please enlighten me, David. I am never tempted by frozen potatoes, but can’t resist fresh-cut.

  • David,

    What a wonderful meal….I love oysters and mussels and fries…
    Curious about those fries, though…theyt look too perfect to be fresh-cut fries…but I am stunned that the French would serve frozen potatoes. Please enlighten me, David. I am never tempted by frozen potatoes, but can’t resist fresh-cut.

  • What a paradise, one wants to go at once, how well you write. Thank you.
    I once met a similar paradise in the Bijago archipelago of former Portuguese West Africa where enormous amount of oysters were as easily available as smoked over open fires similar to what is done in La Tremblade with mussels. Absolutely delicious. And of course where I was there was also plenty of chilled vinho verde and indeed beer to go with it. In France I have never dared to ask if they smoke oysters
    it seemed such a luxury. Besides David thank you for writing long ago on that marvellous ice cream parlour Raimo on 61 boulevard Reuilly in Paris 12.
    The quality is tremendous, the atmosphere a delight, a paradise easily reached by bus.

  • I would love that place. I have loved places like it in Normandy, but with a slightly more formal air and this sounds better.

  • Audrey: Most of the French fries in Paris are pretty bad. They use frozen fries and undercook them, so they’re limp and soggy. When I asked at a local restaurant why don’t they cook them until they’re crisp, the owner told me; “People complain when we do.”

    [Like the pallid baguettes pas trop cuite (not too cooked) that are popular.]

    It’s sad, because the fresh potatoes in France are astoundingly-good. These fries were, indeed, frozen. But at least they were cooked until crisp, which is why I gobbled them up.

    suedoise: Glad you liked Raimo. Unfortunately they’ve remodeled, and the place has lost all of that fabulous 50s-60s stainless steel and retro charm. The ice cream is still good, but I get it at their take-away next door now.

    cj: It was interesting because my hosts insisted on serving it at room temperature. But I put an ice cube in it, to make it cold. (Which shocked them.) But I still prefer the white : )

    I did have a galette de Charente, which had angelica in it. I loved it! I did go to Niort, hoping to find some fresh angelica to candy myself, but only found the candied stalks, which I stocked up on.

  • Ooohh!!! Une galette charentaise à l’angélique… **dreaming** These are fantastic! I have an uncle going to Vendée this weekend (north of Charente-Maritime) and he’s going to make a 50 km detour via Fouras on his way there only to get oysters and his favorite galette. It’s good to have priorities in life, isn’t it? ;-)

    I guess everyone’s taste is different and your friends may prefer the Pineau at room temperature but I agree with cj, it so much better when cold (it needs at least a couple of hours in the fridge). We drink it, temperature-wise, the way we would drink a nice white wine, a Muscadet or Entre-Deux-Mers for example.

    I like both white and red Pineaux and, once in a while because it is much more expensive, some “Vieux Pineau”, aged white Pineau. Delicious!

    I forgot to add yesterday: thanks for your blog, it’s a great place!

  • Mussels.. those are my favorite! As a matter of fact, i love all kinds to seafood. They look delicious and tasty. Yum!

  • Looks absolutely amazing! Very jealous. :) Beautiful photos, as always, and your descriptions have my mouth watering. One of the best seafood meals I ever enjoyed was at a tiny restaurant in La Rochelle. I was 5 months pregnant and CRAVING seafood. There was no menu, only a small blackboard that the servers wiped dishes from as the kitchen ran out of that evening’s fresh supply. I’d never be able to find that restaurant again (a local pub owner recommended it to us & I have forgotten the name) but it remains one of my favorite meals of all time.

  • I love that you were nearly full after the oysters, and then the mussels arrived.. :)

    Carpe diem, and you certainly did…good for you! Celia

  • I’m not a fan of oysters, but those moules look and sound delish. And I love the photo of the signage, under the oyster image. Old, hand-painted signs like that are just so particular, and particularly lovely. Last but not least, that pile o’ fries look picture-parfait!

  • Fries with mussels is fantastic, and mayonnaise with those fries would have made it even better!

  • Ah, David, you are in the land of my maternal ancestors (some of them), no wonder the photos resonate with me.

    I’ve seen plenty of girth in rural France.

    Mimi

  • Vinegar and crushed garlic and sometimes shallots is a classic Filipino dipping sauce for steamed mudcrabs, mussels, shrimp …even pork rind!

  • I loved this post! I spent a year in La Rochelle, and continue to go back to the Charente-Maritime. It’s my favorite region of France. I’ve been wanting to try l’éclade de moules, so this reminds me I need to do that next time I’m there. It’s interesting that they cooked them over seaweed though. I’d always heard it was with pine needles. Anyways, I really enjoy your blog!

  • Mussels and frites! I have a terrible confession to make. When I was in Belgium (the closest I have ever been to France) two winters ago, I did not try the mussels and frites. My first mussel experience was here in the states after my trip and I could not be kicking myself more.

  • David,

    Simply put, you are my hero! I first found your sight when I was desperate for a good recipe for Macaron -from your Chocolate recipe, I then adapted it and made Chocolate ones, Lavendar, Rose, Orange, Strawberry, Black Walnut, and Vanilla. The Lavender were the hit at that dinner, but I did not forget where I found that recipe.

    Since then I have made many of the sweets ( I don’t know why, but I cook) I usually give them away, it is an easy way to bring happieness.

    Then the pastry recipe that you had posted OMG!!! It is 1. Perfect every time 2. Tastes Buttttttterey!! 3. Does not fall, is easy to handle -Love it!

    Also, that you live in Paris… I visit, tho usually just long enough to recover the flight from LA and get a car to get out of Paris. But you have given me new insight, into what I have thought for so long as Hemmingway’s Paradise Lost.

    Thank you!

    Tiare

  • Moules et beaucoup de frites may be my favorite meal in France, no matter where the restaurant. But both the moules and the frites look particularly to die for here. I will add it to my long list when I cross the pond this fall. merci!

  • oh, this makes me homesick. This is how we eat seafood in Thailand. If only those French words were Thai and switch out those fries for crab fried rice, you could be in Thailand.

  • This post was so convincing that my husband and I are making a special detour to eat there this weekend on our drive back to Paris from the Pyrenees. Now the question is where should we stay once we get there? Any hotel advice would be amazing. Thanks again for the terrific post.

  • Zeva B: I stayed with friends so can’t offer any advice, but do go to the gorgeous les Halles (market) in town, too.

  • These mussels look divine. I was lucky enough to have a meal at Chez Hortense, in Cap Ferret, where the mussels are the absolute best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life (and I’ve lived in Paris too, so that’s saying something). Snagged a bound galley of your book at work, and am loving it!

  • The meal looked impressive, mussels cooked on the board must have been delicious, the location looks a bit daggy but i may be spoilt by living on the sunshine coast of queensland australia where our food is fantastic and the views magnificent, but still would love to sample the good life in france !
    merci beaucoup

  • I love your description of your dining experience and will remember the pincher trick the next time I have the opportunity!

    Best,
    Christine Elisabeth von Malsen Hueber

  • Be still my heart-moules and oysters , two of my favorite foods. A french woman sitting next to me at Les Vapeurs in Trouville(my favorite place for moules)
    showed me , many years ago, how to use an empty moule shell as a pincher.
    I’d love to visit this place!

  • I have just discovered your site and can tell I will be back regularly. You photos and insight are just wonderful and your “Although they still push you out of the way, too. It’s just they use an Hermès tote” had me unexpectedly laughing aloud. I am so sorry to read of the loss of your beloved baguette. One never forgets their first love.